MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The ACLU of Alabama’s second annual report identifies 148 bills introduced last legislative session that create a “pipeline to prison” in Alabama.
Thirty-two of those bills became law, most of which impact single counties with new fees law enforcement can collect. Others make certain behaviors crimes or enhance existing penalties.
The report lists the new law criminalizing youth transgender medical treatment as one example.
“For too long, we’ve seen this reliance on punishment rather than really turning towards justice, rehabilitation, and really what we believe Alabamians want to see are investments in our education, health care infrastructure,” ACLU Alabama Policy and Advocacy Director Dillon Nettles said.
Nettles argues another law defining a riot and making that a class A misdemeanor infringes on the right to protest.
“We’ve also seen once again legislation introduced by Rep. Treadaway to really crack down on the access to the First Amendment, peoples’ rights to be able to express themselves in protest,” Nettles said.
Rep. Allen Treadaway was Assistant Police Chief in Birmingham during protests two years ago. He says the bill kicks in only when protests aren’t peaceful.
“Stores were looted, buildings were set on fire, bricks and other objects were thrown at police officers,” Treadaway said.
Treadaway says a rise in violent crime nationally and in Alabama has made the laws the report criticizes crucial.
“I don’t care how many folks that we put in jail. If they’re out here murdering and raping and seriously assaulting folks, we have to hold them accountable,” Treadaway said.
Gov. Kay Ivey also says the legislation is necessary.
“We’re focused on public safety. Whatever that means to keep our people and officers safe, that’s the name of the game for us.”
The ACLU’s report is also critical of the state’s use of roughly $400 million in COVID relief money to build two new prisons.